Two years ago the Medical Society of the State of New York House of Delegates approved a resolution supporting smoked medical marijuana to relieve nausea and pain in terminally-ill patients when nothing else had worked. MSSNY then went on to support a proposed New York State Assembly bill, even though the bill was much, much broader in its scope. The MSSNY House of Delegates had never considered this bill. Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Committee on Health, had asked for this support from the MSSNY Leadership, and they felt they could provide it.
This year NYSAM brought a resolution to the MSSNY House of Delegates asking for reaffirmation of the AMA’s position opposing the promotion of smoked marijuana as medicine. The AMA’s position is that marijuana is not approved for this purpose by the Food and Drug Administration, and should not be “legalized” until research has demonstrated efficacy for specific indications (as would be expected of any other drug). Dr. Jun David, NYSAM’s delegate to MSSNY, defended our position at MSSNY’s Reference Committee along with 12 other speakers. Only one person spoke against our resolution. Dr. David also gave the reference committee copies of ASAM’s new white paper opposing medical marijuana as it is presently being promulgated (see the Resources Section on this page).
In spite of this, the Reference Committee recommended rejection of our resolution, reaffirmation of the previous position in favor of smoked medical marijuana, and they made no reference to the ASAM report (even though each member of the reference committee had been given a copy). MSSNY is a democratic organization, however, and so Dr. Jun David challenged the recommendation of the Reference Committee before the entire House of Delegates.
Many delegates stood up and supported the FDA and the AMA position. Dr. David pointed out that MSSNY has a position opposing smoking, that the medical marijuana bill proposes that doctors recommend smoking, and allows patients to smoke marijuana in hospitals. Debate continued and questions were raised about the new ASAM report, but the Reference Committee did not comment or provide copies.
Finally, the House of Delegates decided to not support the Reference Committee’s reaffirmation of the previous pro-medical-marijuana position. The delegates did not vote to entirely support the NYSAM and AMA position, either. Instead they referred the matter to the MSSNY Council. This will allow the Council to study the ASAM and AMA documents and make a recommendation.
I personally find satisfaction with the House of Delegates’ decision. MSSNY Leadership should respect the large number of members who oppose promoting the smoking of marijuana for so-called “health reasons.” They should not endorse the present “medical marijuana” bill until the council meets in June.
It should be noted that there are also a significant number of MSSNY members who want the organization to support smoked marijuana as medicine. I hope the MSSNY Council will affirm a recommendation based on the House of Delegates’ resolution from two years’ ago – that MSSNY declare that the proposed legislation be changed to allow people who are on hospice care or are hospice-eligible have some access to marijuana use. It would not be appropriate for MSSY’s Leadership to extrapolate from this previous resolution support for the current bill under consideration. I invite comments from the membership on this issue.